Girly Thoughts

May 6, 2008

More on why we have to fix our criminal justice system

Filed under: Gender,prison,Race — judgesnineteen @ 3:33 pm

Women in Prison

Prison and Racism is part of the point of this article about racism in the feminist movement that I found on Feministe a while back.

What do you think would be an appropriate way to handle men who commit crimes of violence against women, besides prison?  This website has some suggestions.

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5 Comments »

  1. In this book that I read for my Feminist Methodologies class (Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andrea Smith), the author discusses this issue. She brings up the idea of restorative justice and community accountability.

    I like the idea of community accountability, because it offers an opportunity for the man to remain a part of the community while still being held accountable for his crime. It’s better, IMHO, than sending men off to prison where they are separated from their problems, and then letting them loose on their community again once they have “served their time.” I think there is something in the idea of making a man constantly face up to his crime by having the place where he lives holding him accountable.

    Problems with this approach, as addressed in the book, are that many people tend to blame the woman when the crime is of a sexual nature, making it difficult to hold the man accountable. Also, in this time, where mobility is so readily available, people can just leave their community.

    On that last note, Smith talks about redefining the idea of “community,” so that all people are seen as parts of multiple communities, and when they commit crimes, they should be held accountable in all of these (ex.from the book: an academic who commits incest and leaves the place where he lives, should be held accountable in the academic community by having his crime made public before he speaks or has work published).

    I think it’s an interesting alternative, although many people see it as not being well-developed enough.

    Comment by Amelia — May 6, 2008 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  2. That is really interesting. But the academic example doesn’t sit well with me somehow…I guess, if that’s his only punishment, when does it end? Does he just have it hang over his head and his work his whole life? (I suppose that’s his victim’s fate, though.) And it seems to just be shame as punishment, I don’t know how helpful that is. I agree that it’s better for this to take place in a community than in prison, but maybe we need more ideas on how communities can hold people accountable.

    I was thinking it would be interesting to look into retribution, like having the perpetrator pay for the hospital bills and counseling bills of the victim. On one hand, I’m sure that would make them angry, and probably raise more cries of false allegation (although, if that were the case, it’s not like the survivor could take the money and go shopping, he/she would have to sit in therapy and pretend to have been raped…but people would say it anyway), but on the other hand, the perpetrator would at least have to realize how much damage he/she did. And there’s no reason why the survivors should have to pay those themselves, although I don’t know how it works now. But I’m sure this would have to be combined with other things, like counseling for the perpetrator, to work, if it would work at all. And there would have to be some sort of limit so that the perpetrator wasn’t pushed into debt, because poverty isn’t going to help anything.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — May 7, 2008 @ 11:36 am | Reply

  3. I’m just not sure how any of these are a substitute rather than a supplement for prisons. That article didn’t make the case for me in terms of funding, disincentiving future criminals (I didn’t see any analysis of whether, without the threat of prison, potential criminals might be less deterred), and as Amelia points out, how a non-restraining system will prevent criminals from fleeing.

    Personally, I think many of us who tout alternatives might feel differently if a family member were a victim of a violent crime.

    Comment by octogalore — May 15, 2008 @ 2:36 am | Reply

  4. I’m sure we would feel differently. Some of those feelings would be important for this conversation, because they would make us HAVE to take the issue as seriously as possible. Some of them would likely be harmful, because people tend to want revenge, but revenge is often not beneficial for society. So we need lots of different points of view in this conversation in order to make sure we’re not too lenient, but not too vengeful. And absolutely, we have to be practical – we need a lot more answers before we can make any big changes, and I don’t know if completely eliminating prisons will ever work. But something NEEDS to change. The current system is inhumane and counterproductive; I can’t support it in good conscience, whatever the challenges to changing it may be.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — May 15, 2008 @ 2:59 am | Reply

  5. I don’t disagreeing with you that we cannot be apologists for the current system. But if we want change, we need a proposal that works. I’m no expert, but I haven’t seen one without a ton of holes.

    Comment by octogalore — May 15, 2008 @ 5:52 am | Reply


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